Reality Mining

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Reality mining is term used to describe the collection of information generated by everyday objects and the subsequent processing of it. This information can give a series of important clues and keys to the way life is lived. For instance, gathering information over time can help one to understand problems or trends in that information.

Reality Mining studies human interactions based on the usage of wireless devices such as mobile phones and GPS systems providing a more accurate picture of what people do, where they go, and with whom they communicate with rather than from more subjective sources such as a people's own account. Reality mining is one aspect of digital footprint analysis[1]. Reality mining was used to look at Google search terms around cold and flu symptoms in order to predict flu epidemics. [2]

Civic developer Max Ogden's created a collaborative reality mining experiment called PortlandSmells. It encouraged citizens of Portland, Oregon to report what they smelled in Portland and provided a way for them to upload this information by mobile phone. What Ogden found was that the application was also very suited for citizens in reporting dangerous smells and indicative of spills in the city. The city later commissioned Ogden to make a toxic hazard reporting map in order to serve this purpose better.


  1. BusinessWeek, 2008.
  2. Flu Trends Map